The shuttle launched just seconds before midnight and could be seen from across the East Coast as it lit up the sky.
Discovery is hauling seven astronauts and a load of space station supplies -- including a treadmill named after Comedy Central political comedian Stephen Colbert. Its previous two tries to launch last Tuesday and Wednesday were derailed by thunderstorms and fuel valve trouble, respectively.
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The shuttle should reach the international space station Sunday night.
Read more: MSNBC